Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 Backup – What are Your Options?

In this blog, we’ll discuss some key considerations you should consider when your organization chooses an Office 365 ...

In this blog, we’ll discuss some key considerations you should consider when your organization chooses an Office 365 backup solution. Of course, every organization has different needs, so some of the elements presented here might be more important to your organization or department than others.

Which Microsoft 365 applications can be backed up?

businessman working with  modern technology as concept-1There are various Microsoft Office applications such as Exchange Online, Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint. Each of these apps creates different data types, and for example, a SharePoint file is saved and stored differently to an email in Exchange Online.

Microsoft 365 is essentially a combination of different SaaS apps rather than one single SaaS app. This means that the backups of Microsoft 365 need to integrate data that comes from several apps or APIs. In simple terms, APIs can be described as messengers; they allow different web apps to communicate and share data.

The following Microsoft 365 applications can be backed up:

  • Exchange Online, including mailboxes, shared mailboxes, folders, calendars, contacts and tasks
  • OneDrive for Business including all files and folders
  • SharePoint including site collections, document libraries, lists, views, permissions
  • Teams’ including channels, files and tasks

Microsoft 365 Backup Limitations

While it is always a good idea to have a Microsoft 365 backup, it is important to remember that there will be some limitations.

API limitations

Microsoft doesn’t offer a combined API capable of giving access to all Microsoft 365 applications and data. This means that backup vendors have to use a combination of new and legacy APIs to be able to backup and restore any available Microsoft 365 data. However, this does mean that all Microsoft 365 backup and recovery software is limited by the same APIs, as they all have the same access.

Different types of data

Another limitation of backing up Microsoft 365 is that there are many different types of data that are stored within the Microsoft Online apps. Microsoft is frequently updating their apps and introducing new data types, and therefore it can become very time-consuming and costly to support every data type available. Consequently, you may find that different Microsoft backup vendors focus on a subset of Microsoft 365 apps that they think are most relevant for their customers. These will, of course, differ from vendor to vendor. So, when picking your backup tool of choice, it is vital to find a Microsoft 365 backup solution that covers all the apps your organization uses and wants to backup.

How to select a Microsoft 365 backup tool

Here are some things to consider when evaluating different Microsoft 365 backup vendors.

Purchasing options

There are different ways to purchase your backup solution, some can be purchased directly from the vendors' website, but other tools are only available through resellers like MSPs (Managed Service Providers) or VARs (value-added resellers).

If you purchase directly from a vendor, this will be a much more hands-on approach and will require time and effort in-house to evaluate different tools and decide on the most appropriate one. This process will likely vary between vendors though and may also depend on how large your company is and the internal processes you have when purchasing new software. Some companies will want to give presentations / demos and learn more about your company to help you find the best package. But other companies will have all their options online, and you can start a free trial and purchase the software without having a sales presentation or demo.

Whichever approach you take, it is always recommended to look at a few different companies and see if they offer free trials so you can test the product first.

Data recovery

If you only have a backup tool for one single Microsoft 365 app, it is the same as only having insurance for one room in your home. The likelihood of only one room flooding in your house is very rare, so you need insurance for the whole house. The same applies to your backup as well. If you need the backup or to restore data for one app, you’ll likely need it for other apps too. Therefore, you must select the most appropriate backup tool for your organization to give you the coverage you need for all your apps.

That’s why comprehensive coverage is a key factor when considering Microsoft 365 backup solutions. At the minimum, we recommend an Office backup solution that can backup and restore data from Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Groups, and Teams.

Data backup & recovery success rate

Whatever tool you pick, you want to ensure they have a high backup and recovery success rate. A good Microsoft 365 backup tool will have a high success rate and will be able to recover your lost data in a reliable and fast way. If you do ever find that you need to recover some lost data, you want to feel confident that you will get it back. You can also look at customer testimonials the vendor might have on their website. Some companies may also give you the option of talking to a current customer about their experience with the tool. These are just more ways to learn about the vendor's success rate directly from the customer.  

Number of backups per day

At your organization, you are likely to do a lot of work in one day. Lots of new documents and data will be produced, lots of changes will be made to existing documents, and lots of emails will be sent. Due to the increased amount of remote work, across countries, especially in large enterprise companies, it is likely that these changes will happen 24 hours a day.

That is a lot of data that is created, and therefore a lot of data that could be lost should something happen.

It would be very time-consuming and costly to replace all that work if you must do it again. Therefore, when selecting a backup vendor, you must understand how often they backup your data. If it is only done once a day, that isn’t very helpful, and you could lose a lot of work. You need to ask the vendor if they do multiple backups in one day. This will give you better protection in the case of data loss, and you will always be able to recover the latest, most up-to-date version. This will mean the minimum disruption to your company in the event of data loss.  

Number of data regions

You also need to consider the data regions your company operates in. If you are impacted by GDPR regulations, you might need a data center in the EU. If you have a lot of customers in the US and particularly in California, you might need a US data center. There are lots of vendors who can offer storage in multiple regions. This means not only will you be protected against the different legislations but also in case one data center fails for whatever reason.

Cloud Migration CTAStorage Limitations

Further to the point above, you need to understand if storage is included in the price you pay for the backup. Some vendors will only provide backup, and it will be an additional cost to store any data. This can make it complicated when you are setting up and configuring your account with the vendor. To make setup easier, it is recommended to pick a vendor that offers backup and storage with multiple storage data centers and locations.

Unlimited data storage

In addition to data storage and locations, it is important to understand how much data is included in your subscription. Some companies will limit the amount of data they will back up on a per-user basis, or they may claim to offer unlimited, but they will charge a lot for extra storage for users with large amounts of data. So, if you know that your organization, especially key people in your organization, have a lot of data to backup, it is worth checking for vendors that offer unlimited storage.

Some companies will claim they offer unlimited storage. Still, when you read the fine print, you might find certain restrictions or limitations on this, so it is important to have your legal team look through the contract to ensure you are getting what you expect from the vendor and won’t be caught out by nasty, expensive additional costs.

Unlimited data retention

As well as storage limits, you may find that some vendors limit the number of file versions that can be backed up. This could be an issue in you operate in an industry that is highly regulated. If your data retention plan states that you must keep all data for ten years, then you will need unlimited data retention; instead of a plan that only backs up 50 versions, you are likely to exceed that over the ten years of storing the data.

Customize retention policies

Going back to your data retention plan, it isn’t always the best option to keep your data for a long time if you don’t actually need to. It can end up proving to be more complicated and riskier.

For example, if you are storing all data for ten years, imagine if you were involved in a legal case and someone had to go through all the data you retained in that time. It would be very time-consuming and costly. By selecting a vendor that will allow you to have a customized data retention policy, you can get rid of the data once you no longer need to keep it for compliance reasons.

Number of seats

Another thing to consider when selecting your backup vendor is whether they have a minimum seat subscription. This will likely only be an issue if you are a small company or want to pilot the software in a particular department or team. Some companies will have a minimum of 100 seats, so if you are a company smaller than this, then you’d either be paying for more seats than you need, or you need to find another vendor that has a lower minimum. You may find that the cost per seat is higher if you have a low number of seats required.

Easy setup

Something else to consider is how easy it is to set up and implement the tool once you have purchased it. You need to think if you’ll have to provide training to any employees once the tool has been purchased. Some backup tools can take a while to set up fully and can often come with complex training guides and onboarding processes. While reviewing different vendors, you may want to ask about implementation and training and what support they offer for this.

Support availability and hours

One of the top things to consider when selecting a vendor will be the support available to you once you have made the purchase. If you do go through a data-loss event of any kind, it will likely be a very stressful time. Therefore, you want to have support and help from the backup vendor to recover all your lost data.  

You should also look at the different ways to get in contact. If they offer multiple ways, it will likely be easier, more convenient and suit people’s preferred method of contact. Most companies will provide email, phone and live chat. Some might also have a knowledge base so you can find the answers yourself. As well as the different support methods, you need to know the hours they are available. This will be particularly important if you are a global company operating across different time zones. Another reason to see the support hours is that you don’t know when a data-loss incident data breach might occur. They won’t just happen Monday to Friday between 9 and 5, so you need to ensure you have support from the vendor outside of these hours as well.

In this blog, we’ve discussed several topics that can be used to compare different Office 365 backup solutions to ensure that your organization chooses the best for their needs.

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